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Limited Series [Premiere]

Aired On: Paramount+.

Release Date: 03/29/24.
Drama. History. Thriller.

"A Russian aristocrat is spared from death and placed on house arrest while the Bolshevik Revolution plays out before him."


In the wake of the tumultuous Russian Revolution of 1917, A Gentleman in Moscow, based on Amor Towles' novel, is a captivating new Showtime series led by a stirring central performance from Ewan McGregor. 


McGregor plays Count Alexander Rostov, a nobleman condemned to life within the historic and expansive Metropol Hotel.


The series opens as Rostov sits waiting in a large, marbled hallway, while two Bolshevik officers drag away a kicking and screaming man, the sound of his voice ending seconds later with a single gunshot. The scene illustrates the brutality of the revolution and sets the tone for Rostov’s subsequent trial and imprisonment within the Metropol. 


Rostov is moved from the large room where he had been staying to a grubby servant's quarters with a tiny, rusted bed and little else. The Bolsheviks have seized his money and most of his worldly possessions. "Life for you and your kind is over in Moscow," he's told. 


Somehow, Rostov remains in good spirits. He wakes the next day, starts a fire in a tiny stove – snow falling in heavy sheets outside – and goes to the dining room where the chef salutes his exquisite palette. It's a jarring juxtaposition, but that’s the point.  


Rostov befriends 9-year-old Nina (Alexa Goodall), a precocious little girl who happens to have a key to every room in the enormous hotel. An older Nina (Anna Madeley) acts as the voice of the narrator, and hints that Rostov is to become a sort of Oskar Schindler figure for those in captivity. 


Later, Rostov meets a disheveled Prince Nikolai Petrov (Paul Ready, showing tremendous depth in a supporting role). The prince’s palace has been seized and he now serves as the evening’s musical entertainment. The two men know each other well and, sensing Petrov’s sorrow, Rostov smiles and says, “They can take away your house or your rooms – they can't take away who you are.”


Showrunner Ben Vanstone (All Creatures Great and Small, Merlin) skillfully contrasts the hotel's luxurious setting with the harsh realities of Bolshevik rule. The beautiful costumes and lavish set designs illustrate the high opulence of early 1900s Russian nobility, while the dark subject matter permeates the show with an air of tension and dread.


McGregor is magnetic, the trademark glimmer in his eye serving him well despite the obvious peril and captivity he's being kept in. It's a measured, layered performance that carries and elevates the show, already a gorgeous looking and finely acted costume drama. 


This is dense, nuanced, highbrow stuff, with the entire production – writing, direction, acting, costuming, set designs – all award-worthy. It's well paced and full of intrigue, and the pilot ends on a shocking and heartbreaking final note that begs for more.

On a more commercial streaming platform, A Gentleman in Moscow would likely be both a hit and a critical darling. On Showtime, it will almost certainly be relegated to the latter – a very well-made TV series to be whispered about, like so many secrets echoing through the halls of a posh hotel from a bygone era.

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